In Milan, Baranzate Ateliers Returns With Revved-Up Appeal

Taking over two warehouses at a disused Linate loading dock, the Zaventem Ateliers offshoot proves the power of collectivism and abounds with surprising finds at the vanguard of artisanal craft and collectible design.

(FROM LEFT) Lionel Jadot; portrait by Tim Van De Velde. A lamp from Jadot’s Lost Highway Collection.

Lionel Jadot seems to be hitting a stride. In the past year alone, the Belgian interior designer earned the prestigious Henry Vandevelde Award, enjoyed a solo exhibition of collectible design objects at the newly opened Objects With Narratives gallery in Brussels, and completed the striking autumn-hued hotel Mix in the city’s former La Royal Belge. But if you asked the freewheeling 54-year-old about any of these achievements, he’d likely demur and credit his bursts of creative ingenuity to the collective energy flowing liberally through Zaventem Ateliers. He founded the design cooperative and Wonka-esque creative playground in a centuries-old paper factory to resurrect the communal ethos of Europe’s erstwhile Middle Age guilds, where a hive of independent workshops function as an open-source network with shared materials, facilities, and approaches to collectible design. 

Thanks to the collective talents of Zaventem’s resident artisans, Jadot can add another feat to that list: the second edition of Baranzate Ateliers at Milan Design Week. The wide-reaching showcase of Belgian handicraft broke out as a must-see Fuorisalone highlight in 2022, when it took over a disused Necchi factory in the northern Baranzate district, a crucial nexus within the Italian city’s industrial heritage. There, he created a platform to present the collective’s philosophy, atmosphere, and designer roster to the global stage. Perhaps the dilapidated setting read as rough-hewn or post-apocalyptic, but the conviviality of Zaventem’s family-like ethos quickly softened the mood and made for a compelling post-Salone palette cleanser. 

The Zoumey collection by Arno Declercq
(FROM LEFT) A chandelier by Vladimir Slavov. Resourcer tables by Thomas Serruys

Baranzate Ateliers took the following year off, but has bounced back with a more ambitious and comprehensive program befitting its spacious new location at a sprawling ‘50s-era loading dock near Linate. Jadot transformed the site’s two warehouses into a compelling showpiece of artisanal craft where each designer receives equal attention. As I moved through the first warehouse, where a dozen Zaventem residents are presenting their latest mind-bending works and material experiments, the collective’s synergy immediately reveals itself. The work is on the design vanguard, but the atmosphere is friendly and relaxed—a refreshing break from Milan Design Week’s frenetic spate of branded Instagram spectacles that draw hours-long queues down cramped city blocks. Everyone seems at home with each other and eager to explain the background behind their work for the sake of design, not sales. “Baranzate Ateliers thrives on collective vision over competition,” Jadot tells Surface, noting that all expenses are shared among the participants. “It’s the collective energy that fuels the project.” Don’t call it a fair, either.

That energy has yielded an eclectic mix of objects and oddities across categories, all united under the Zaventem Ateliers ethos. Among these are a rigorous collection of burned and black-oiled solid Iroko wood furniture by the prodigious Arno Declercq, who taught himself woodworking on YouTube. He also debuts his foray into sculpture with an outsize metallic work that, in the same language as his table bases, resembles a pile of teetering two-by-fours. Studio Élementaires, the ten-year-old studio founded by Apolline Couverchel and Gauthier Haziza, dazzles with a menagerie of kinetic luminaires, one affixed with a group of bulbs that each rotate steadily in circular motion not unlike Disneyland’s Mad Tea Party ride. Jadot’s clever Lost Highway Collection returns anew, repurposing sizable pieces of dismantled asphalt salvaged from the side of the road into tables, chairs, and, impressively, an entire kitchen system. Thomas Serruys stacks rough-cut steel tables within one another like Matryoshka dolls, their offcuts repurposed into deconstructed desk lamps.

Monochrome sculptures by Marijke De Cock
(FROM LEFT) Fragile Display Cabinet by Thibeau Scarceriaux. Colonial Warriors Stools by Grond Studio

To complement Baranzate’s program, Jadot invited like-minded guests whose practices operate at the cross-section of art and design to show in the site’s second warehouse. The textural nuances in William Guillon’s bronze, Alien-like sconces, wall mirrors, and candelabras reward close inspection thanks to the preponderance of his touch in every square inch of their painstakingly hand-sculpted surfaces, which evoke the gradual drip of hardened melting wax candles in a dimly lit gothic castle. The Bordeaux-based talent proves his alchemy and affinity for sci-fi world-building stuns at multiple scales with a startling throne-like bench that would even leave H.R. Giger gagged. The hazy materiality of Laurids Gallée’s translucent resin luminaires and side tables, shown by the newly opened Brussels gallery Objects With Narratives, brilliantly glow with glints of light. A neatly arranged row of off-white ceramic lamps by Elsa Foulon is a study in consistency and proportion.

This year’s edition also arrives with the publication of a Jadot-directed volume, “Zaventem Ateliers: Out of Catalogues,” that chronicles the history of Zaventem Ateliers, its Baranzate offshoots, and projects that embody its communal ethos. Pick one up to read interviews with the participants, too. “Since the inception of Zaventem Ateliers, our vision has remained steadfast: to cultivate pure, free energy within a diverse collective of creators, harnessing it to foster collaboration and sharing,” Jadot says. That vision seems to be coming into even clearer focus.

Works by William Guillon
(FROM LEFT) Lost Highway Collection by Lionel Jadot. Ceramic tiles by Boquita de Cielo
Works by Ben Storms

Baranzate Ateliers will be on view at Via Gaudenzio Fantoli, 16/3, Milan, until April 21. 

Photography by Amber Vanbossel unless otherwise noted.

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